This volume presents 10 papers related to the life of Canterbury Museum founder Sir Julius von Haast, eight of which were presented at the online symposium Haast Symposium: Celebrating the Life of Sir Julius von Haast in 2022.
Sir Julius von Haast, who was born on 1 May 1822 in Bonn, Germany. This special Canterbury Museum Bulletin contains selected papers from the symposium that deal with different aspects of Haast’s life and achievements. Haast was an explorer, natural
scientist, Museum director and writer – a nineteenth-century polymath who made an enormous contribution to his adopted home in Waitaha (Canterbury). Specimens that Haast collected in his travels through Aotearoa New Zealand are the foundation of
the Canterbury Museum collection. On 3 December 1867, he opened to the public a display of 7,887 natural history objects in the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings. A purpose-built Museum opened three years later on our current Rolleston Avenue site. In Haast’s lifetime, Canterbury Museum became one of the leading museums in the Southern Hemisphere. Haast’s interests were wide and varied. The first major event held in the new Museum in 1870 was an art exhibition. He was a founding member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and was, by contemporary accounts, an accomplished violinist who enriched the local musical scene.
Haast originally travelled to New Zealand in 1858 to investigate whether the country was suitable for German immigration. Within days, he had met and formed a lifelong friendship with Ferdinand Hochstetter, the geologist on the Austrian Novara scientific expedition. Haast travelled with Hochstetter on all his New Zealand journeys. Hochstetter would later become superintendent of the Imperial Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria, exchanging natural history specimens with his colleague Haast on the other side of the world, New Zealand. We are delighted that there is a continuing association with scholars from Vienna, three of whom have contributed papers to this volume.
In putting the spotlight on Haast’s life it is also important to acknowledge that he was a product of his times and of European colonialism. Some of his actions are not as we would do today, particularly in failing to acknowledge tangata whenua and the information that they shared with him. But, bearing that in mind, we hope that this volume is a record of Haast’s legacy that will
continue to inspire future research.